Liverpool couldn’t break their City Ground hoodoo as they suffered a humbling 1-0 loss to struggling Nottingham Forest this afternoon.
This was the Reds‘ sixth visit in the Premier League era with their previous trips ending in three draws and two losses. Forest’s home ground remains the only stadium the Merseyside giants have played at more than once in the competition and never won. In fact, extending beyond the inaugural 1992/93 season, they’ve failed to win on any of their last 13 league visits (seven draws and six losses) – which is currently their longest ongoing winless run as a visiting side in league football.
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The feeling heading into this latest encounter was that it was no longer going to be the case. Jurgen Klopp’s men had come into today’s early kick-off riding on the back of consecutive 1-0 home wins over Manchester City and West Ham while Forest boasted a nine-game winless streak (including six defeats).
Recent injuries and other issues have deprived Klopp of selecting his first-choice eleven — with youngsters Curtis Jones (21), Fábio Carvalho (20) and Harvey Elliott (19) starting (not since New Year’s Day 2018 against Burnley had Liverpool named three players aged 21 or younger in a Premier League starting XI) — but the 19-time English champions had enough possession and opportunities to condemn Steve Cooper’s side to another miserable result. Dean Henderson, who’s vying to be England’s number one at the forthcoming World Cup finals, made numerous excellent saves including from Virgil van Dijk and Mohamed Salah at the death.
Breaking the deadlock. ? pic.twitter.com/VHfqmCm2Qc
— Nottingham Forest FC (@NFFC) October 22, 2022
Instead, an inspired team selection by Cooper, who looked on the brink following an embarrassing 4-0 loss to East Midlands rivals Leicester City earlier this month, ultimately decided the contest. Having joined from Union Berlin in the summer Taiwo Awoniyi, a former Liverpool youth star who never made a single first-team appearance, had only started four times across Forest’s last 12 league outings but was there from the start today and importantly in the right place following Steve Cook’s 55th-minute free-kick which Awoniyi won. His first effort struck the post but the Nigerian international made no mistake with the rebound. He subsequently became the first Nottingham Forest player to score in each of his first three Premier League starts at the City Ground.
It could have been even more, but the result settled at 1-0, meaning Forest became the first newly promoted side to win a home Premier League game against Liverpool since February 2017 (Hull 2-0 Liverpool), ending a run of 16 such games without a win for newly promoted sides (five draws and 11 losses). It also poured further doubts over Liverpool’s title aspirations even this early. They’re already 11 points off the pace, having so far played a game more than leaders Arsenal, albeit four behind fourth-place Chelsea at full-time. Even so, a day earlier City boss Pep Guardiola wasn’t counting them out from winning yet another league crown under Klopp’s leadership.
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) October 22, 2022
“It looks like with my statement I believe more in the Liverpool team than their manager,” he told reporters.
“It’s just 10 fixtures gone, the World Cup in the middle and a lot of games to play, Europe involved and cup competitions involved, injuries involved.
“I said before when we have six or seven games left, yes. When it is just 10 games, one thousand million things can happen.”
As comforting as those words from Guardiola may be the reality and enormity of putting together a championship push now is stark. This latest setback means Liverpool have failed to win any of their opening five away games in a Premier League season for the first time since 2006/07 under Rafael Benítez (winless in first 7). On top of that Liverpool has lost three of their 11 games this season, one more than they’d lost in the whole of the 2021/22 campaign (two of 38).
It’s worth remembering last season Liverpool finished a point behind City with everything decided on the final day.